The Shout – Stephen Leather

This is a nice twist on perspective for a crime novel, being a story putting a firefighter front and central in the proceedings, and a female firefighter to boot. Vicky Lewis is a strong character, and needs to be. This young crew manager in the London Fire Brigade becomes shunted sideways into the Fire Investigation Unit, working alongside a non PC male boss, Des Farmer, aka the Grouch. Cue misogynist chatter and all sorts of bruising encounters, but Vicky keeps going.

We know what is going on, because the parallel story thread is told from the perspective of a serial killer, who covers his tracks by setting fires that look like accidents, removing all forensic evidence of his dirty deeds.

Vicky finds about this killer from the Grouch’s private investigation – an investigation the authorities are very much against because, as far as they are concerned, accidents happen and there is no evidence of foul play at any of these scenes. Vicky joins in the Grouch’s off-the-books investigation, and sets off on an adventure dicing with death and destruction.

I enjoyed the story, and learned a lot about fires – at times it felt like I was in a fire safety training session. I am guessing the author thought this was important for context and scene setting, and the realistic detail did not intrude too much, even if it was close. It will be interesting to see if the character merits a series, as I thought Vicky was worthy of more development. Perhaps she will have to move on from the fire brigade?

Good stuff.